PH Schwäbisch Gmünd » Offices & Departments » International Office » International PhD Students

Guidelines for International PhD Students

Frequently Asked Questions

How to do a doctorate in Germany?
Generally speaking, there are two ways to get a PhD in Germany: the so-called “Individualpromotion” is the common path to pursue doctoral studies. Over the past few years, structured PhD programs have become increasingly common. Whereas the structured programs include a curriculum with taught classes, the individual doctoral study focuses on the dissertation project. Nonetheless, PhD students can voluntarily attend advanced methods courses.

How do I find a supervisor for a dissertation project?
The best way to find a supervisor is to directly get in touch with professors that suit your field of interest. On the PH Schwäbisch Gmünd homepage, all departments, are listed to help you identify your area of interest. If you aren’t fluent in German, don’t hesitate to write to supervisors in English. And in case you have trouble understanding our website, a German-English dictionary might help to identify your potential research field. (e.g.

How do I find a topic for my doctoral thesis?
It’s up to you to choose your research topic. The next step is to find a supervisor who will oversee your dissertation project. A short written proposal of your project will help you to convince your supervisor.

Where can I get help for financing and funding?
The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) offers a scholarship database for international PhD candidates.

Where do I get a visa?
Visa regulations vary from country to country and depend on duration and purpose of your stay abroad. The German diplomatic mission in your country can give you information on visa requirements. Please note that the process of getting a visa might take several months. In case you need a certificate, your supervisor can attest your intention. The Federal Foreign Office offers an overview on the topic.

What about health insurance?
Health insurance is mandatory for students (including PhD students) in Germany. Please check with your insurance company if your stay abroad is covered. There are special insurance rates for international visitors. If you need further information, the DAAD website can help you.

In which language can I write a dissertation?
Obviously, you can write your thesis in German. If you feel more comfortable writing in another language, talk to your supervisor and check if he/she agrees to a dissertation written in English or another foreign language.

How do I manage if I only speak and understand very little German?
Most people in Germany speak or at least understand English and will help you to get by in your everyday life. The spoken language on campus is German, however. Please be advised that most classes at PH Schwäbisch Gmünd are taught in German. The University of Education offers language classes on different levels of proficiency for international exchange students. You can use this opportunity to get to know the language and culture of your host country and mingle with other international students. If you’re interested in attending a German course, talk to the International Office at the beginning of the semester. Contact: → International.    

Where do I find information on accommodation?
Generally speaking, it’s difficult to find housing from abroad on the free market. We therefore recommend applying for a room in one of the halls of residence close to the campus:

What about the costs of living?
The actual costs of living depend on your lifestyle and can therefore only be estimated. Right now, the average student in Germany can get by with approximately 700 € per month.

What kind of status do I have as a PhD student?
Your enrollment as a PhD student is voluntary. You will therefore need to cover a small administration fee (approximately 100-150 Euros per semester), but you can also benefit from student amenities (e.g. transportation). You’ll find further information in the Beratungskompass. (in German; in case you do not understand, please contact the International Office: → International.)

Where do I go upon arrival?
Your most important contact is the department of your supervisor. Please make an appointment beforehand to make sure somebody will be there for you on campus. This is particularly important during the semester break (lecture-free periods: winter semester: February  / March; summer semester: August / September).

How can I participate in social activities?
The International Office offers a social program for international students. If you’re interested in leisure activities, ask them to add you to their mailing list.



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